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Couples Living Abroad Can Do Pre-Divorce Counselling Over Videoconferencing, Says Kerala High Court

KOCHI – Family courts can conduct the mandatory pre-divorce counselling through videoconferencing if the couple is not able to attend in person, says the Kerala high court.

Modern telecommunication methods can be used for the counselling and the parties need not be forced to attend in person, a division bench led by justice CK Abdul Rehim said. The parties can be asked to attend the counselling through such methods either jointly or separately. However, consent of both the parties is required for conducting such counselling, the court said.

A petition filed by a wife questioning Irinjalakkuda family court’s dismissal of a plea to speed up the divorce proceedings was considered by the high court. The joint petition seeking divorce was filed before the family court while the husband was abroad and the wife was residing in Kerala. The wife sought to speed up the proceedings as she got a job in Kuwait later. As her husband was not available for joint counselling, the wife had demanded that separate counselling should be given to her.

The family court had declined the demand for separate counselling by pointing out that it would fail the objective of the counselling, which is the explore the possibility of a reunion. At the high court, the wife had contended that the family court’s decision is wrong as her husband had agreed for the separate counselling.

Considering the case, the high court said while it is the duty of the family court to conduct counselling for the couple who seek divorce, various circumstances that prevent the parties from appearing in person should also be considered. If a joint application is received from the couple for conducting counselling separately, the family court should check its veracity and allow such plea if it is true. The court can discharge its responsibility of conducting counselling using means such as videoconferencing using computers, laptops, or mobile phones, the high court said.

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